Nichakarn Kaveevorayan is serving as a UN Volunteer Programme Officer with the UN Development Programme (UNDP) in Thailand. She shares her inspiration: "I believed that serving as a UN Volunteer with my disability would help me expand my knowledge of national and international legislation and good practice on inclusive development," she explains. "At the same time, I felt that working with the UN would enable me to reach a lot of people with different disabilities and gain a deeper understanding of their issues. On both fronts, I have not been disappointed."
Nichakarn joined the UNDP-UNV Talent Programme for Young Professionals with Disabilities in October 2020. As a person with a visual impairment, she encountered numerous challenges, such as a non-inclusive system, attitudinal barriers and inaccessible learning materials.
After completing her master’s degree, Nichakarn joined a seven-month internship programme of the Social Innovation Foundation, which promotes employment and inclusive workplaces for persons with disabilities in Thailand. There, she discovered the statistical data on people with disabilities and related employment laws in the country.
Working with colleagues with different disabilities, including hearing, psycho-social and physical impairments, I became acutely aware of issues and challenges that people with other disabilities have. This ignited my interested in working in the disability field and increasing awareness of persons with disabilities. --Nichakarn Kaveevorayan, UN Volunteer Programme Officer with UNDP, Thailand
Around two million people with disabilities have disability cards in Thailand. Of these, just about 20,000 people (or 1%) have graduated with a bachelor’s degree or higher. Many of them struggle to find jobs.
As a disability advisor, Nichakarn works on building staff capacity and awareness on disability inclusion. She also supports mainstreaming disability-inclusive development in projects/programmes. This includes UNDP, where she facilitates discussion and consultation between the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities and organizations of persons with disabilities. Nichakarn has also contributed to drafting the Disability-Inclusive Development Strategy of UNDP in Thailand.
As I immersed myself in the workplace and worked toward the inclusion of persons with disabilities, I learned many invaluable things. One of these was understanding the concept of the social/human-rights model of disability. This changed my perspective on the rights of persons with disabilities from what I had internalized from Thai society throughout my life. I also gained confidence to speak out on behalf of persons with disabilities about our potential, challenges and rights as human beings. --Nichakarn Kaveevorayan
Nichakarn monitors the implementation of disability-specific initiatives in Thailand. Last year, for instance, she organized digital training for women with disabilities, conducted a study on promoting an inclusive workplace for persons with disabilities in Thailand, and increased the accessibility of the website of the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities.
As a blind person, Nichakarn explains that it has always not been easy to work. For instance, she cannot access normal printed materials unless using screen-reading software in digital texts.
"Unfortunately, some online websites/platforms are not inclusively designed and not friendly for screen reading software, which hinders some of us from accessing information and online training courses. In particular, the spread of COVID-19 has made things more difficult as all meetings, trainings and communications were held virtually," says Nichakarn.
"Another potential challenge for working towards disability inclusion is awareness and public attitudes towards persons with disabilities. When considering vulnerable groups, persons with disabilities are often the last on the radar. This is because not many persons with disabilities in Thailand leave their homes to work, study and participate in social/recreational activities, due to the many barriers we face," she adds.
"Therefore, to effect change, we need to exert a lot of efforts to increase awareness and advocate for the rights of persons with disabilities," Nichakarn concludes.
If you have a passion to work in national or international development and help other people, become a UN Volunteer. This will not only bring you joy, but also precious experiences and expertise, which will enhance your professional growth. --Nichakarn Kaveevorayan